About a year ago, in September 2013 I made a visit to the Muskoka Cottage Sanitorium. I had learned of it while studying Tuberculosis in a course on plagues and disease while at the University of Toronto. As I had grown up in Muskoka this a very convenient trip for me to make. The sanitorium, built in 1897 was the first place of respite in Canada for those suffering from Tuberculosis (which also goes by consumption, phthisis and TB). It was renamed in 1902 to The Muskoka Free Hospital for Consumptives, the first tuberculosis hospital in the world to offer fully subsidized treatment.
From a social perspective tuberculosis is a fascinating disease as those with the diagnosis were immune to the typical stigmatization found with many other illnesses. Rather, the disease which causes one to lose weight, become pale, with rosy cheeks and glassy eyes was actually considered beautiful. Furthermore, the patients were treated more like they were on vacation than quarantined and ostracized from society as can sometimes be the case in dealing with disease (contrast it with Hansen’s disease).
The sanitorium is built in Ontario’s cottage country, right on the lake, with a beautiful grounds. As Tuberculosis is a pulmonary disease, rest and relaxation, a wholesome diet as well as the fresh air which accompanies a getaway in Muskoka was the best treatment for patients at the time. Unfortunately all the buildings have been boarded up and thus there is no access inside, however the grounds are worth a wander.
I imagine these houses, which line the driveway, before the actual grounds of the hospital were for residential staff.
Here is the beach to the right of the hospital, it really is a gorgeous piece of property. The government has been discussing what to do with it since I had first learned of its history. I would be truly devastated to find it had been sold for commercial use. As a Canadian I understand how relatively little history the country has and to see original landmarks such as this be demolished and lost to time is incredibly upsetting. I personally would love to see it be restored and used for educational purposes about the role Canada played in the treatment of Tuberculosis. The grounds really do have so much potential, it’s a shame to have it locked up, decaying more and more with each year.
I believe this must have been a restaurant for families to go to when visiting their relatives. Although, I don’t know that much visitation would have happened with the contagious disease. I only believe it wasn’t the main cafeteria as it is a separate building and rather small for what the hospital once held.
I was astonished by how big the hospital is, here it is from the front as you enter from the driveway.
A peak inside…
The main door.
More view of the lake from the back of the hospital.
This structure sits on a rock on the side of the hospital. It is clearly a more recent than any other building on the grounds, although I’m unsure of its purpose.
There is a small playground by the lake. The patients were to have ten to twelve house of fresh air each day as part of their respite. They were given breathing exercises to combat the illness.
This picture shows just how large the grounds are, as this is about halfway up the driveway to the main building.
To the right of the grounds we found some old suitcases and playground equipment.
One of the boards on a window of a residential house had lifted, I was able to take this picture with the flash on by just squeezing my hand behind the board.
There is more playground equipment to the right behind the residential area.
I have post coming up on Monday that I am very excited about, so be sure to catch that, thank you for reading!